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The Svetambara (श्वेतांबर, श्वेतपट, also spelt Svetambar, Shvetambara, Shvetambar or Swetambar) is one of the two main sects of Jainism, the other being Digambar. Svetambar literally means "white-clad", describing its ascetics' practice of wearing white clothes, which sets it apart from Digambar ("sky clad"), whose ascetic practitioners wear no clothes.

Svetambaras, unlike Digambaras, do not believe that ascetics must practice nudity, or that women are unable to obtain moksha. Svetambaras maintain that the 19th Tirthankara, Mallinath, was a woman.

At present in Svetambara sects, there are 2,510 Monks and 10,228 nuns, while in Digambaras there are 548 monks and 527 nuns (According to 'Smagra Jain chaturmas suchi-2006').

The Svetambara tradition follows the lineage of Acharya Sthulibhadra suri. Kalpasutra mentions some of the lineages in ancient times. from the Kottiya Gana, which was once prominent. The Svetambara monastic orders are branches of Vrahada-gachchha founded in 937 AD. The most prominent among the classical orders today are Kharatara-gachchha (1024 AD), Tapa Gachchha (1228 AD) and Tristutik Gachchha.

A major dispute was initiated by Lonka Shaha, who started a movement opposed to idol worship in 1476. The Sthanakvasi and Terapanthi (Svetambara) (1780) orders are branches of this movement.

The major reforms by Vijayananda Suri (1827 – 1906) in 1880, as the leader of the Tapa Gachchha, led a movement to restore orders of wandering monks, which brought about the near extinction of the Yati institutions. Acharya Rajendrasuri restored shraman sanstha in the "Tristutik" gachchha.

Some Svetambara monks and nuns cover their mouth with a white cloth (muhpatti) to practise ahimsa even when they talk. By doing so they minimize the possibility of inhaling small organisms.

Svetambara sub-sects

Svetambara is divided into two sub-sects, those practitioners who worship images in temples, known as the Murtipujak ("image-worshiping") or Mandirmargi ("temple-going"), and those who do not, the reformist sub-sects of the Sthanakvasis and the Terapanthis.

  • Murtipujak, headed by various Acharyas as their sect and sub-sects.

In the Murtipujak sect there are 4 main sub-sects as follows:

    • Tapa gachchha In Tapa Gachchha there are 21 sub-sects headed by different Acharya
    • Achal gachchha, currently led by Acharya Sri Gunoyadayasagar suri Ji.
    • Khartar gachchha, currently led by Acharya Sri JinKailash sagar suri Ji.
    • Parshwachandra gachchha, currently led by Mahopadhyaya Sri BhuvanChandra Ji.
  • non-Murtipujak (Sadhumargi)


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